UK to lead research into alternative energy sources to coal in K - WDRB 41 Louisville News

UK to lead research into alternative energy sources to coal in KY

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- They say coal keeps the lights on in Kentucky, but with new regulations and changing habits, that light may be dimming.

Now, there's a major project designed to power new forms of energy in Kentucky.

The University of Kentucky has received grants totaling $24 million designed to lay the groundwork for a new energy economy in Kentucky; one that moves beyond just coal.

UK unveiled the program as students gathered for the first day of class.

The event was important enough to attract usual political opponents, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Gov. Steve Beshear.

The five-year research project, fueled by a federal grant, is designed to develop new and sustainable energy sources.

"The focus of this $24-million, interdisciplinary, multi-institution research effort will be to strengthen Kentucky's bio-economy," said UK President Eli Capilouto.

Coal has been at the center of Kentucky's energy economy for generations. But with thousands of coal jobs now being lost, the project's lead researcher says the state must diversify and create new jobs.

"They have been very hard hit by changes in the energy infrastructure, and so this is also looking at how do we build new opportunities in those areas," Rodney Andrews, director of UK's Center for Applied Energy Research.

But the politicians are quick to point out this is not an acknowledgment that coal has a bleak future.

"It's an acknowledgment that we've got to have an all-of-the-above strategy," said Beshear.

"This is to complement the fossil energy resources that we have. We need to have an all-of-the-above energy strategy," said Republican Congressman Andy Barr of Lexington.

In fact, Gov. Beshear said he supports the lifting of the ban on nuclear power in Kentucky.

"I think there is a feeling on behalf of some that somehow lifting the nuclear ban is disloyal to coal or some other form of energy, and I think we're getting past that point now," he said.

Although coal has been the big issue in his re-election campaign, McConnell left without speaking to WDRB News.

The project involves not just UK, but also the University of Louisville and Kentucky's other public universities and both community and technical colleges.

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